Interpreting The 5 Love Languages: What It Can Mean In Your Relationship

Hollywood and pop-culture show us that there are a million ways to express love for a romantic partner.

By Caitlin Shaw4 min read
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But no matter how elaborate or simple the display of affection, relationship counselors and love experts claim that almost all expressions of love can be placed into the following five categories: physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, and gift giving.

These five categories are known as love languages, a term coined by counselor and author Gary Chapman in the late 1990s. Chapman had studied couples’ interactions for years and noticed behavior patterns in how love is given and received between partners. His observations culminated in what we now commonly refer to as the five love languages. Today, nearly three decades later, love languages have not only become vernacular in our culture, but they’re also viewed as a powerful tool to understand romantic relationships better. 

The 5 Love Languages Defined

Physical Touch 

Those with this love language feel most loved through giving and/or receiving tactile affection. This does not necessarily mean sexual touch, but it can be things like hand holding, a kiss on the cheek, a massage, or a hug. Physical touch was tied with words of affirmation as the second most common love language in men.

Words of Affirmation

Words of affirmation can be defined as expressing love through spoken words, praise, or appreciation. Individuals who resonate with this language enjoy kind words, encouragement, and uplifting quotes. If your man’s love language is words of affirmation, send him cute text messages or love notes to let him know that you’re thinking about him. According to a Hinge study, words of affirmation was the second most common love language in both men and women.

Quality Time 

People who identify with the love language of quality time believe that nothing displays greater affection than spending time with a significant other. They value undivided attention and being present in the moment. If you’re in a relationship with a man who identifies with this love language, your phone may be his worst nightmare. Put away the distractions and focus on your man.

As the most common love language among both men and women, spending quality time with your man should be a priority in your relationship, no matter what love language you resonate with. Quality time doesn’t necessarily mean going on an elaborate, well-thought-out date – although those are always nice. It can mean simply sharing a meal, watching a movie, going on a walk, or sitting down and having a conversation.

To meet our need to be loved, we need to be loved using the languages we prefer. 

Acts of Service 

Individuals with this love language feel most loved when their partner helps them with an errand or does them a favor. A simple act of kindness goes a long way with these individuals. So, if your man resonates with this language, it will mean a lot to him if you put in the effort to pick up his dry cleaning or make him dinner.

Gift Giving 

The fifth and final love language is gift giving, and those who resonate with it love giving and/or receiving physical items, either big or small. Gift givers are not just in it for material gain – they believe that the thought and effort that goes into planning and selecting a gift is a sign of deep affection. 

In his book, The 5 Love Languages, Chapman specifies that an individual has a primary and a secondary language. The primary love language describes how you give love, while the secondary explains how you receive it. Experts state that the primary and secondary love languages don’t have to match, in fact, they often don’t. Maybe you love giving gifts, but you would prefer to receive words of affirmation. Or maybe you value quality time so much that it fulfills both your primary and secondary love language. An individual’s unique combination of love languages will heavily depend on their personality and values. 

The Importance of Learning Your and Your Man’s Love Languages 

The more you know about yourself and your man, the more equipped you are to be the best partner you can be, making a more successful relationship. However, there is so much more meaning to love languages than many of us even realize. Giving and receiving love means something different for each person and understanding the ways that you or your man displays love will lend insight into one another’s values and needs.

Believe it or not, there is some science behind love languages. Some experts claim love languages are powerful enough to help couples develop a deeper bond and build greater intimacy. Others state that sharing insights about love languages with your partner can lead to higher emotional intelligence and increased empathic ability. One study finds that “people who better match each other's preferences for love languages are more satisfied with their relationships and sexual life.” 

On a more concrete level, discussing your love needs with your man will open doors to critical conversations about intimacy, trust, and all the foundational qualities that build a healthy relationship. Conversations about your needs will set a positive precedent between you and your man of honesty and open communication. The insight you each will walk away with after a discussion about love languages will deepen your understanding of how each of you thinks, feels, and reacts to affection and conflict – all of which can be used to strengthen your relationship.

No two people in a relationship will express their love in the same manner.

Love languages can also be used as a form of damage control. By that, I mean, that naturally, conversations about emotional expression can uncover differences between partners. Maybe your man’s love language is gift giving, but you hate being on the receiving end of surprises – this could show that other conversations need to be had to outline boundaries. Or maybe your love language is quality time, but your man is constantly multi-tasking when he’s with you, leaving you feeling ignored and ultimately unsatisfied. Talking to your man about the ways that you share and receive love is a good way to begin discussing other underlying problems. Wouldn’t you rather uncover conflict in your relationship through an open conversation instead of finding yourself in a fight? Conversing about love languages with your man could do just that.

The Limitations to Love Languages

While there are many benefits to learning about love languages, there is only so much that they can do. Love languages cannot fix other problems in the relationship, and they should never be used to justify abusive feelings or behaviors. Also keep in mind that they are not meant to be discussed in excess, as sometimes this can place too much pressure on a relationship.

Lastly, don’t let a love language limit the love that you give or receive. Just because you take an online quiz that tells you your love language doesn’t mean that your man cannot or should not show you affection in other ways. We can all benefit from being loved in a variety of different ways.

Closing Thoughts

Love languages can be a great tool to strengthen your relationship, initiate open communication, create a closer bond, or even help prevent potential conflicts. But don’t let it limit you and your man in loving each other in all the unique ways that are special to you both. If you don’t already know your love language and you’d like to find out, click here to take a short quiz. 

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